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||Ivo Andrić (1892-1975)|
Writer of Serbo-Croatian novels and short stories who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. Ivo Andrić's literary career spanned some 60 years. Before World War II, he was known primarily for short stories set in his native Bosnia. Andrić made his reputation as a novelist with the Balkan trilogy (The Bridge on the Drina, Bosnian Chronicle, and The Woman from Sarajevo), which appeared practically simultaneously in 1945. Its central symbol was the bridge. Andrić's work, dominated by a sense of Kierkegaardian pessimism and personal isolation, arise from the collision of cultures in the Balkans.
"Here, where the Drina flows with the whole force of its green and foaming waters from the apparently closed mass of the dark steep mountains, stands a great clean-cut stone bridge with eleven wide sweeping arches. From this bridge spreads fanlike the whole rolling valley with the little oriental towns of Višegrad and all its surroundings, with hamlets nestling in the folds of the hills, covered with meadows, pastures and plum-orchards, and criss-crossed with walls and fences and dotted with shaws and occasional clumps of evergreens. Looked at from a distance through the broad arches of the white bridge it seems as if one can see not only the green Drina, but all that fertile and cultivated countryside and the southern sky above." (from The Bridge on the Drina, 1945, translated by Lovett F. Edwards)
Ivo Andrić was born in the village of Trávnik in Bosnia (then
in the Austro-Hungarian Empire), into a middle-class family. Andrić was
three years old when his father, an artisan, died of tuberculosis. The
family moved then to Višegrad, another little town, where he was raised by his mother, a
strict Roman Catholic, and his aunt. A Croat by birth, he became a
Serbian by choice. He was educated at schools in Višegrad and Sarajevo
in 1898-1912. While at secondary school, he read Don Quixote
and became interested in the work of August Strindberg. At the age of
nineteen, Andrić published his first poem, entitled 'U sumrak', in Bosanska
vila (1911). This collection of verses and articles made him one of the most promising writers of his native Bosnia.
In his youth Andrić joined the revolutionary nationalist
student organization Mlada Bosna (Young Bosnias), which was
involved between 1912 and 1914 in a dozen terrorist plots of sabotage.
However, another passion of the Young Bosnians was literature. Andrić
transferred from the university of Zagreb to the university of Vienna
in 1913. After showing the first signs of tuberculosis he asked
to be allowed to leave Vienna for Cracow. Possibly Andric was
motivated by political reasons, too.
When Gavrilo Princip, a member of the group, assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo in 1914, Andrić was arrested as a conspirator and imprisoned and interned in various places until the Amnesty of 1917. His time Andrić devoted to reading the works of Fedor Dostoyevsky and Søren Kierkegaard, whose Either/Or (1843) had a great influence on him.
a Yugoslav nationalist, Andrić greeted with enthusiasm the creation of
the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (since 1929 Yugoslavia) in
1918. Many of his poems appeared in the literary journal Knjižveni jug, in Zagreb. Other early literary efforts
included translations of Walt Whitman and of Strindberg. His prose
poems Andrić collected in Ex Ponto (1918) and Nemiri
(1920). Beginning with the short story 'Put Alije Djerzeleza' (1920,
The Journey of Alija Djerzelez), Andrić turned his attention to prose
and in the late 1920s he had given up poetry for fiction, focusing on
short stories, which was the most appropriate form of expression for
him. Much of the material for his stories, which could be called
chronicles, came from the cultural heritage and centuries long struggle
among the Yugoslavian peoples, Orthodoxs, Caltholics, Jews, and
Muslims; Catholic characters were portrayed more often than Orthodox.
In an essay, 'Conversation with Goya' (1935), Don Francisco Goya y Lucientes appeared to Andrić in a café as an old man,
who says: "The truth can be told in several ways, but Truth is ancient
and indivisible." (Conversation with Goya - Bridges - Signs by the Roadside by Ivo Andrić, translated by Celia Hawkesworth, 2014, p. 23) Andrić
argued that the legend of Original Sin, for example, of the Flood, of
the Son of Man, crucified to save the world, the legend of Prometheus
and the Stolen Fire, are fundamental legends of humanity.
After World War I Andrić completed his studies in the field of Slavic languages and literatures, receiving a doctorate in history in 1924 at the University of Graz in Austria. His thesis was on the cultural history of Bosnia under Turkish domination. Andrić descriptions of the blood tribute, devshirme (young Christian boys were collected, Ottomanized and trained as Janissaries), made a profound inpact on the popular consciousness. ('Adamant and Treacherous: Serbian Historians on Religious Conversions' by Bojan Aleksov, in Religion in Eastern Europe XXVI, February 2006, p. 33) From 1920 to 1940 Andrić was at the Yugoslavian diplomatic service. His posts included the Vatican, Geneva, Madrid, Bucharest, Trieste, Graz, Belgrade, Marseilles, Paris, Brussels, and Berlin, as ambassador to Germany.
In the 1920s and 1930s Andrić published only a few collections of stories, each titled Pripovetke (Stories). His first collection was awarded a prize by the Serbian Royal Academy. In 1926 Andrić himself was elected to the Academy. After World War II appeared Nove pripovetke (1948) and Prokleta avlija (1954, The Devil's Yard), in which prison inmates break out from their circumstances by telling stories. Much of his fiction was built around prominent characters, such as the monks Fra Petar and Fra Marko, the peasant Vitomir Tasovac, the brave Muslim Alija, and the Višegradian jack-of-all-trades Corcan. The protagonist are depicted in the different periods of their life. The Devil's Yard was structured as a complex series of frame stories many of which were told by inmates of a notorious Turkish prison.
Following the outbreak of WWW II, Yugoslavia allied herself to Germany. Andrić asked in a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to be relieved of his duties. After the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, he spent the war years writing in the occupied Belgrade under German house arrest. "In the worst moments of my life I have found unusual and unexpected consolation in imagining another life," he wrote in his notebook in 1939, "the same as mine in dates, names and events, but true, bright, pure; painful of course as every life on earth must be, but without any dark or ugly in that pain; a life which begins with a blessing and is lost in the heights and extinguished in light." (Ivo Andrić: Bridge Between East and West by Celia Hawkesworth, 2000, p. 25) In seclusion, Andrić produced his major works, Na Drini cuprija (The Bridge on the Drina), the story of the famous bridge at Višegrad in eastern Bosnia, Travnicka hronika (Bosnian Chronicle), set in the town of Trávnik during the period 1806-13, and Gospodjica (The Woman From Sarajevo), a moral tale about a well-to-do old maid and her pathological love of money.
The Bridge on the Drina is Andrić's most famous work, which offer a novelistic overview of Bosnian history between 1516 and 1914. The beautiful 16th-century stone bridge and the river have symbolic significance. They connect or separate generations of townsfolk, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, who are engaged in a ceaseless struggle against forces of nature and human restrictiveness. Through the metaphor of the bridge, the embodiment of endurance, Andrić urged his readers to try to overcome their differences and live in harmony.
Andrić structured the novel as a series of vignettes, each one presenting some aspect of life in the town from the time of the bridge's construction to its partial destruction at the outbreak of World War I. The author's personal history also is closely associated with the bridge connecting East and West. It is mirrored in the story of Mehmed Pasha Sokolli, who was taken from his Serbian mother by the Turks when he was a little boy and eventually became a vizer. Passing of time and fragility of human achievements label often Andric's work with a sad tone – only stories remain: "In a thousand different languages, in the most varied conditions of life, from century to century... the tale of human destiny unfolds, told endlessly and uninterruptedly by man to man," Andrić has written. (Ivo Andric: Bridge Between East and West by Celia Hawkesworth, 2000, p. 7) Bosnian Chronicle was an exploration of clash of cultures, in which European consuls and a Turkish vizer confront. The story spans the seven-year period, when the Dalmatian littoral fell under French rule in the aftermath of Napoleon's bloody campaigns.
In the postwar socialist period Andrić's output included
several short stories on contemporary subjects and themes, some travel
memoirs, a number of essays on writers and painters, and two shorter
novels. In 1949 he was elected to Yugoslavia's federal assembly as a
representative for Bosnia. A supporter of Yugoslav Premier Josip Tito,
Andrić joined the Communist Party and served as president of the Union
of Yugoslav Writers. In 1956 he was honored with the Prize for Life Work, an
annual national award.
Andrić was not subjected to censorship. All his works were freely read and discussed in his home country. This includes The Devil's
which was interpreted as a political allegory; there is a tyrannical
warden, Karadjos, obsessed with crime and punishment, and an idealistic
dreamer, Zain, telling stories of love and romance. Both are products
of a corrupt Ottoman totalitarianism. "Devil's Yard
is quite obviously a powerful evocation of the loneliness, the fear,
the claustrophobic frustration that comes with tyranny and its
destruction of human freedom." (John L. Mahoney, in Best Sellers: The Semi-Monthly Book Review, Vol. 22, No. 16, November 15, 1962, p. 323)
During the period from the late 1940s to the early 1950s Serbian writers debated on modernism and realism, and the stuggle ended in the victory of the modernists. Yugoslavia adopted the socialist system, but followed an independent policy, and socialist realism never took root in the country. Andrić enjoyed in his own country a great acclaim, and was the most widely translated Serbian writer – only from the younger generation Miodrag Bulatovic's works arose nearly as much interest abroad.
In 1958, at the age of 66, Andrić married Milica Babic, a
well-known painter and costume-designer at the National Theatre. She was 47 years old. They had ten happy years
together in Belgrade before Milica died in 1968. Andrić
had first met her at the time when he was appointed ambassador in
Berlin. Milica was married; he waited for three decades for her to be
free to marry.
The Swedish Academy gave Andrić the Nobel Prize for Literature
"for the epic force with which he has depicted themes and human
destinies drawn from the history of his country." He won the
award over names such as Lawrence Durrell,
Robert Frost, Graham Greene, E.M. Forster and J.R.R. Tolkien. When he was
asked, what he is going to do, he replied that he is not
accustomed to all the excitement around him, and he just waits to
get back to his "ordinary, monotonous working day." Andrić went to
Greece and Egypt, but he was taked ill in Cairo, and due to health
problems he refused invitations to visit the United States, France and
Poland, among other countries. The remainer of his life Andrić spent in
Yugoslavia, where continued to work until 1974, when he
became seriously ill.
Ivo Andrić died in Belgrade on March 13, 1975. He was buried
at the New Cemetery in Belgrade, in the Alley of Distinguished
Citizens, next to his wife.
For further reading: Ivo Andrić by P. Dzadzic (1957); Ivo Andrić: Studien über seine Erzählkunst by R. Minde (1962); Ivo Anrić: zagonetka vedrine by M.J. Bandic (1963); Turkisms in Ivo Andrić's 'Na Drini cuprija,' Examined from the Points of View of Literary Style and Cultural History by Gun Bergman (1969); 'Andrić, Ivo,' in World Authors 1950-1970, edited by John Wakeman (1975); Ivo Andrić: Bridge Between East and West by C Hawkesworth (1984); The Man and the Artist: Essays on Ivo Andrić by Z.B. Juricic (1986); Ivo Andrić: A Critical Biography by Vanita Singh Mukerji (1990); Ivo Andrić Revisited, ed. by Wyne Vucinich (1995); The Failure of Multiculturalism by Andrew Wachtel (1998); Ivo Andrić: Bridge Between East and West by Celia Hawkesworth (2001); 'Andrić, Ivo' by Sandra Bahun-Radunovic, in The Facts on File Companion to the World Novel: 1900 to the Present, edited by Michael Sollars (2008); Attached to Dispossession: Sacrificial Narratives in Post-imperial Europe by Vladimir Biti (2018)